Providing for the community: CrossWay pastors making difference in and out of church
Dressed in an Iowa Hawkeyes sweatshirt and stained up blue jeans, Gabe Casciato might not look like a pastor at first glance.
But his strong desire to serve people in the Fort Dodge community is evident through his actions.
On Feb. 23, Casciato didn’t hesitate to help a complete stranger on the outskirts of Fort Dodge, according to Scott Hatton, senior pastor at CrossWay Church, 3058 10th Ave. N., formerly named First Evangelical Free Church.
“One of our congregates called the church,” Hatton said. “She had encountered a family member with a flat tire outside of town. She called here and asked if someone could possibly help them.”
That’s when Casciato answered the call on a Thursday afternoon.
“Pastor Gabe went out there and crawled under this guy’s car and helped him change a tire,” Hatton said.
The adventure explained the stains on Casciato’s jeans.
The man Casciato helped spoke little English, but that didn’t bother Casciato a bit, he said.
“It was fun,” Casciato said.
Hatton admitted the church isn’t in the automotive repair business, but lending a helping hand in that situation is an example of the church’s mission of being a good neighbor in the Fort Dodge community.
“It was really neat to be in a position where someone calls and for him to get out there and really serve in an extremely tangible way to help a guy change a flat tire on the side of the road,” Hatton said.
Casciato, a pastor for family life, also serves as a wing chaplain at the Des Moines Air National Guard Base.
There, Casciato is responsible for all the religious programming and care of the troops stationed at that location.
Casciato, 39, was recently promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Air National Guard.
“It was very humbling,” Casciato said. “When you are a private laying in the hasty fighting position at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, at 19-years-old, you don’t ever see lieutenant colonel on the horizon, so when my wife and mother were pinning that on me it was very humbling. It was cool.”
Casciato served in the Middle East as a chaplain from 2009 to 2010.
“One of the challenging things when I deployed was leaving my wife and two kids at the time, at home, more than 7,000 miles away,” Casciato said. “That’s definitely one of those moments that makes you ask yourself if Jesus is worth being this far away from my family. Thankfully the answer was yes. It was hard, but it was a life changing experience in all the best ways, too. Watching the men and women do their job and do it well, trying to represent the country well and everybody out there is sacrificing.”
Providing protection and care for the troops was what Casciato was tasked with.
“My job was to make sure they had what they needed to exercise their right to freedom of religion,” Casciato said. “The neat thing about the chaplaincy, it’s the one place where privileged communication is absolute. So any troop in the military can go and talk to the chaplain and they know it’s secure. That is the only place in the military where the privilege is absolute.”
“The chaplain is a safe place to go to process life,” Casciato said. “Whether it’s marriage difficulties or problems with kids, down to troops who are away from home for the first time and they are just homesick.”
Casciato would eventually transition into becoming a pastor at CrossWay Church. He joined CrossWay Church in December.
The church, which has been in Fort Dodge since 1964, changed its name from the First Evangelical Free Church to CrossWay Church in January.
It was a move to hopefully make the church more understandable and relatable to people, Hatton said.
“In 2017 the terms, evangelical and free aren’t exactly clear,” Hatton said. “We wanted to have something that was more significant, more appealing than our current name.”
CrossWay is a name that fits with the church’s message, Hatton said.
“We believe the cross really is the central message of what the Bible is about and about what Jesus did on the cross, so we wanted to incorporate that,” Hatton said. “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We wanted to talk about the two words together, the two words carried significance as far as what we want to communicate as a church.”
Community Christian School, which historically had been connected with First Evangelical Free Church, is not officially associated with the church anymore. However, many people are associated with both the church and the school.
“We are independent of the school now, but we certainly do have a lot of people who are connected,” Hatton said. “A lot of our people attend there. CCS will always be part of the legacy of our church.”
Feed My Starving Children, a worldwide organization that sends food to places across the globe to help children that don’t have enough food to eat, is another area of involvement the church prides itself on being a part of, Hatton said.
“We are one of the sponsors of that,” Hatton said. “The really neat thing is we helped to raise $9,000 to stay local for the Salvation Army, the Beacon of Hope, and the Lord’s Cupboard.”
CrossWay also has a presence at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, where it sends a group called Faith Studies to meet on Thursday nights.
“They have about 30 to 35 guys that meet Thursday nights for worship and Bible study,” Hatton said.
Hatton said he and a worship band also visit from time to time to play music.
“We just see it as part of what we want to be,” Hatton said. “We are just looking for ways to display the love of Christ in our community.”
Casciato said he just wants to continue his work of helping people through difficult times.
“I love the process of watching people come alive through Christ,” Casciato said. “Fort Dodge is a great town. It’s a great community, but life happens. When life happens, there are times, some people are very fortunate, but most people have some scratches and some bruises. When you get the opportunity to bring Jesus into that and show how the gospel really does make a tangible difference in their life today that connects to their job, school, marriage, community, and you see this process of transformation in lives, there is nothing sweeter than that.”